As a research/doctoral institution, the University of Texas at El Paso fosters a climate of scholarly inquiry, with a special focus on addressing major health issues that confront the U.S.-Mexico border region.

The focus on biomedical research is evident throughout the campus.

Much of the work is being conducted by teams in UTEP’s Border Biomedical Research Center, which includes state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment in the $45 million Bioscience Research Building. That work will be bolstered by the completion of the new $85 million Interdisciplinary Research Building, which is expected to open in 2020.

Throughout campus, researchers have made significant advancements in the development of promising drug therapies or vaccines for a variety of malignant diseases, including leukemia/lymphoma, and breast and prostate cancer.

A few of UTEP’s most recent notable projects include:

Chagas disease

Igor Almeida, Ph.D., is the first principal investigator from UTEP to lead a clinical trial involving human subjects as he and fellow researchers from Bolivia and Spain test new regimens on patients afflicted with Chagas disease in Bolivia this spring.

Almeida’s work is supported by faculty members Katja Michael, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, and Rosa Maldonado, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences, among other international researchers.

The drugs for Chagas disease are toxic and have low efficacy in the treatment of chronic infection. Almeida and fellow researchers hope to improve the safety and efficacy of benznidazole or nifurtimox by testing new regimens and biomarkers that will provide a more efficient measure of disease state and treatment outcomes.

Chagas is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. The disease has been endemic to Latin America, affecting 6 million to 7 million people, but it is rapidly spreading throughout the United States.

Cancer research

UTEP has made significant strides in battling cancer, one of the major health issues affecting our region’s bicultural population.

Robert Kirken, Ph.D., dean of the College of Science, is the principal investigator for the BBRC, which studies health issues that most affect the Paso del Norte region. Kirken’s lab focuses on understanding the complex communication inside cells so that new therapeutic strategies can be developed to treat diseases such as cancer, rejection of transplanted organs and autoimmune disorders.  

Marc Cox is developing more potent and effective drugs for treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer. More work is being conducted on genomics, cytometry screening and imaging, bioinformatics, biostatistics and biomolecule analysis.

The knowledge gained through the work of UTEP faculty and student researchers helps local and regional hospitals assemble research protocols to treat patients and to better understand pediatric cancer in Hispanics.

Biomedical repository

UTEP is creating a biomedical repository, a research resource to support scores of health studies and learn about a wide range of health conditions.   

El Paso — with its 83 percent Hispanic population — serves as a window into the rapidly growing population of Mexican-Americans. This is vital as there is minimal participation of ethnic minorities in biomedical, behavioral or social science research.

Participation in research studies and clinical trials has tremendous implications for drug therapies and interventions which can make a huge difference in the health outcomes of our community.

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